The Bible is made up of two main sections. The first is called the Old Testament. It focuses on the history of the nation of Israel and God’s covenant with that nation based on their obedience to the Law of Moses. The second section is the New Testament which focuses on God’s covenant with the followers of Jesus Christ based on their trust in Christ as Savior and their submission to him as Lord.
The Old Covenant was given for a certain people and was limited to earthly commands, punishments and promises. Though it no longer directly applies to those under the New Covenant, God sovereignly guided the writing of the Old Testament, along with the history which it relates, for the purpose of teaching His New Covenant people through examples, analogies, prophesies and symbols, as well as giving a basic doctrinal understanding of the nature of God and His moral law.
The New Covenant is not limited to one nation but is open to people from any nation who will place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The New Testament is a collection of the writings of the Apostles (i.e. original disciples of Jesus) and their companions. The New Testament presents the ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ as well as the teaching of the Apostles. It shows not only the way in which Jesus Christ saves people from the guilt and power of sin, but also gives us the standard of what Christians should believe and practice. Through these New Covenant writings we learn how Christ fulfilled the Old Covenant and how Christians should read and understand the Old Testament.
The New Testament plainly teaches the things that God has eternally planned for the Church of Jesus Christ. When we read the Old Testament with these eternal truths in mind we come to see that God had covertly revealed New Testament truths in the writings of the Old Testament. In other words, the New Testament is the key that unlocks the hidden truths of the Old Testament, and then the history and teaching of the Old Testament in turn helps to illustrate and confirm the teaching of the New Testament. Both the Old and New Testaments teach about Jesus Christ and the New Covenant which he established, but the Old teaches it covertly and the New teaches it overtly. It has been rightly said, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.” Christians are guided in their faith and life by reading both the Old and New Testaments. For this reason the New Testament states, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (1 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Old Testament is organized into 4 sections:
- Genesis – Deuteronomy
These five books are known as the Torah, or the Law of Moses. They lay down the instructions God gave to Israel, along with promises for obedience and warnings of judgment for disobedience.
- Joshua – Esther
These writings are known as the historical writings. They present the history of Israel.
- Job – Song of Songs
These writings are known as the wisdom literature. They include poems, philosophy, prayers and songs of praise.
- Isaiah – Malachi
These are the prophetic writings. They were written by some of the prophets of Israel. They primarily contain warnings for disobedience to the Law and a call to return to obedience.
The New Testament is organized into 3 sections:
- Matthew – Acts
The first four books in this section are known as the four gospels, they cover the ministry and teachings of Jesus. The last book in this section is known as the Acts of the Apostles; it covers the expansion of the gospel message after the resurrection of Christ.
- Romans – Jude
These writings are known as the epistles (i.e. letters). They are letters written by the Apostles, or their companions, to various individuals, churches or groups. They discuss issues of doctrine and practice faced by the churches in the first century A.D.
The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John. It is a series of visions that God gave to Jesus Christ in order to show John what would take place in the future. It discusses Christ’s lordship over history and his eventual defeat of all evil when his kingdom is fully established on earth.